I’ve probably written about it before. I don’t doubt many hundreds if not thousands have before me. It’s so true as to become a cliché, but there’s no green more intense, more truly green, than the green of a freshly unfurled spring leaf. Think about it, though: this is an astonishing thing! Surviving the worst that gales, damp, cold, chainsaws and the flail can throw at it, a hawthorn reads the moment and sends its most important set of chemical triggers of the year. Caution is thrown to the spring breeze, the covers come off, growth replaces dormancy.
It’s a democratic sort of spring sign, leaf burst. Everybody understands it. The young and young-at-heart recognised it in the film Wall-E, where a single unfurling rosette of leaves signals the earth beginning to heal. I don’t actually think it will ever come to that point, though. So resilient are plants – not all plants, not in all places, but the fact of vegetation in general – that it’s hard to imagine a world so damaged that a few plants won’t cling on, photosynthesising away in some less troubled corner. We tend to say cockroaches will be the sole survivors of our apocalypse, but even the roaches need something to eat.
So if the birds fell silent and the insect hosts were all but stilled, if the world lay in ruins, I reckon leaf burst would remain. An enduring sign of hope and renewal.